A good rule when volunteering is to aim to be at least as valuable to your programme as it is to you.
Volunteer work is almost always a two way process. It provides a fantastic opportunity for the volunteer - a chance to meet new people, to explore different lands and cultures, to gain valuable experience and qualifications. We do our best make our placements great opportunities for volunteers, supporting them before and after they travel, offering many trips and activities, and trying to stick to cheap volunteering fees.
More importantly, though, volunteer work must also benefit those it is supposed to help. As a volunteer, you should always aim to be equally or more valuable to your placement project than it is to you.
Agape Volunteers has systems in place to promote this. For example, we generally require volunteers to stay for a minimum of two weeks to allow you time to settle in and get to know the place, people and project where you'll be volunteering so there's enough time to learn the ropes on placement and really make a difference. We also invest a percentage of all volunteer fees in long term projects that support the communities with whom we work in Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
Of course, it’s also up to you to be a valuable volunteer. Here are some tips from Agape...
- Take something with you. Football kit, arts and crafts materials, story books and course books, medical and pharmaceutical supplies - there are a lot of things you can bring that will be highly valued by someone we work with. Once you've applied, speak to your designated trip adviser for more advice on what might be useful.
- Keep an open mind. Travel broadens the mind but a closed one won’t be receptive, so take care to be flexible in your expectations - they won’t always be met! Aid work and volunteer projects are complex and often difficult, so be ready to help in any way you can.
- Work with project staff. As a volunteer, you’ll be joining the staff who make your placement project possible and keep it running, whether it’s a care home, a school, a medical clinic or HIV outreach project. Be prepared to learn from them and follow their example, as well as sharing your experience and ideas.
- Take the lead. Agape Volunteers is a volunteer-led organisation. While on placement, it's best to defer to the staff, but don’t be afraid to take the initiative elsewhere. If you can see a way to make things better, do it! It could make a real difference. Similarly, if you can see a problem at your placement, let us know - we might be able to help. You could be improving things for future volunteers in the process.
If you haven't already applied to volunteer with Agape, why not apply now, and put these tips into action!
In the meantime, why not keep exploring everything Agape has to offer?Return to Site